On Thursday, February 4th, Maria Shriver moderated a powerful panel discussion to reframe the conversation around gun violence in America, featuring:
- Debbie Allen, actress, dancer, choreographer, television director, television producer, and a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, founder of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy
- Nicole Hockley, managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, a mother who lost her son in the tragedy
- Marcus McAllister from the nonprofit organization Cure Violence
- Bernard Parks, former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department
The panel took place at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts following Debbie Allen’s ‘Freeze Frame’ narrative. Written, directed and choreographed by Allen, the performance takes audiences on a rollercoaster ride through some of LA’s toughest streets where gangs, poverty, violence, and drugs are an everyday reality.
Shriver began the discussion by asking everyone attending the conversation (or watching online) to listen with an open mind, an open heart and without judgement. “That’s the way I think we all learn, we all grow, and we all change,” she said. “This is a big divide, this conversation, but we’re going to bring it down to the kitchen table, and we’re going to bring it down to each and every one of us.”
To do so, she turned to Nicole Hockley who lost her son Dylan, a first grader, in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, CT. She has been on the road ever since, using her voice so no other family ever has to go through what she want through. Shriver asked how we can each start with ourselves to bring this conversation to a different level. “The most important thing is to get engaged,” said Hockley. Watch her call to action below:
One way to engage youth is through the arts, Debbie Allen said. She spoke about her passion to bring art education and creativity to children. “Steve Jobs didn’t become Steve Jobs without being creative. No one can find the cure for cancer without being creative and having the imagination, and there’s nothing like the arts that will keep America strong and in the forefront of leadership in the world,” she said.
Shriver also asked former Los Angeles police chief Bernard Parks about how we can bridge the divide between the police, neighborhoods and on behalf of families. He said the answer was simple, “If we train and educate our children and have healthy, educated children, we’ll solve most of our problems.” The best part, he stressed, is that educating kids is a job everyone can participate in.
Hear more from Parks on how we can take action:
Marcus McAllister from the nonprofit organization Cure Violence shared his own story of being involved in violence in his youth and how he was able to change his life with guidance from his grandfather. “The antidote to the disease of gun violence is people from the neighborhood who were affected and overcame it.”
Shriver and Allen both wanted to highlight where change begins. Watch them discuss the power of individuals and the importance of courage:
Watch more from the panel conversation here.